2016 Ontario Economic Outlook and Fiscal Review
Chapter I: Creating Jobs and Building Prosperity for Everyone

Section C: Investing in People’s Talents and Skills

Ontario’s highly educated workforce has long been one of the province’s greatest strengths. To prepare workers for the economy of the future, investments in education and training are critical. By providing Ontarians with the right opportunities and supports, the government is helping more people participate in, and meet the demands of, an evolving knowledge economy. Significant investments in child care and early-years programs are getting more children off to a positive start in their education and making life easier by providing working families with quality, affordable care. A new approach to student financial assistance will make college and university more accessible, with tens of thousands of postsecondary students benefiting from free tuition. An overarching Highly Skilled Workforce Strategy will ensure Ontarians are well positioned to thrive and compete.

2016 Budget: Jobs for Today and Tomorrow

The 2016 Budget announced Ontario’s commitments to move towards an accessible, high-quality child care system, making college or university even more attainable and affordable, and further improving Ontario’s education and skills training system.

Commitments in the 2016 Budget included:

  • Taking steps to modernize the legislative and regulatory framework for child care including strengthening oversight of the unlicensed child care sector and increasing capacity in the licensed child care sector;
  • Creating a single major upfront grant — the Ontario Student Grant — to make the average cost of tuition free for students with financial need from families with incomes of $50,000 or less, and making tuition more affordable for middle-income families;
  • Continuing to modernize and transform employment and training programs and services, as well as implementing the renewed Ontario Youth Jobs Strategy; and
  • Building a high-quality apprenticeship system that protects public and workplace safety and ensures skilled tradespeople are ready to meet labour market demands.

Making Progress

Preschool, Primary and Secondary Education

Child Care and Early Years

Since the 2016 Budget, Ontario has introduced regulations to end fees for child care waitlists to improve the accessibility of child care and make life easier for families. The ban took effect on September 1, 2016, and prevents licensed child care centres and home child care agencies from charging fees or requiring deposits to join child care waitlists.

To meet the demands of a growing and changing province within the next five years, starting in 2017, the government will help create another 100,000 licensed spaces for infants, toddlers and preschoolers. This will double the current capacity for those age groups. Children up to age four will benefit from this mixed approach of school-based, community-based and home-based expansion, which will also help more working families find quality, affordable care. See Section B: Building Tomorrow’s Infrastructure Now in this chapter for more details.

The Province will also work with federal, provincial and territorial partners on a pan-Canadian Early Years and Child Care Framework.

Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action Responses

In response to the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, the government is working with Indigenous partners, on- and off-reserve, on a broader child care and early-years strategy for Indigenous communities in Ontario.

The government will also expand five existing child and family programs on-reserve in the following communities:

  • M’Chigeeng First Nation;
  • Nibinamik First Nation;
  • Six Nations of the Grand River;
  • Walpole Island First Nation; and
  • Wikwemikong Unceded Indian Reserve.

Ontario will continue to work with Indigenous partners to help increase the number of off-reserve licensed child care spaces and culturally relevant programming for children and families.

Primary and Secondary Education

Math skills and knowledge are critical components of success. Through activities that are practical and relevant to their lives, students develop mathematical understanding, problem-solving skills and related technological skills that they can apply in their daily lives and, eventually, in the workplace. Ontario is providing various resources both inside and outside the classroom to help more students improve their math scores. A number of investments will support students and parents, including:

  • Investing more than $60 million to implement a renewed math strategy, starting in the 2016–17 school year;
  • Requiring teachers in Grades 1 to 8 to spend 60 minutes each day on effective math instruction; and
  • Supporting Homework Help, which provides students in Grades 7 to 10 with free, real-time math tutoring by certified Ontario teachers in all English-language school boards. SOS Devoirs is a similar service for francophone students in Grades 1 to 12.

In addition, Ontario will work with Indigenous partners to ensure the education curriculum provides mandatory content that includes First Nation, Métis and Inuit histories, cultures, perspectives and ways of knowing, as well as the legacy of colonialism, treaties and residential schools.

Postsecondary Education

Making Tuition More Affordable

Ontario is continuing to make postsecondary education attainable for all who qualify, regardless of family income.

The government is transforming student financial assistance. This includes the introduction of the Ontario Student Grant, starting in the 2017–18 school year, which will make average tuition free for over 150,000 postsecondary students. It will also make student assistance more generous for students from middle-income families. For instance, over 50,000 students from families earning
more than $50,000 in annual income will receive increased grants.

The Province will also:

  • Expand financial support for mature and married students;
  • Raise the Ontario weekly assistance maximum levels for individuals and married and sole-support parents; and
  • Increase access to interest-free and low-cost loans for middle- and upper-income families.

Overall, about 250,000 students will have less debt than they would have under the current system, and the maximum Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) debt level will be capped at $10,000 annually for higher-income families.

Ontario consulted with stakeholders, including postsecondary institutions and student groups, on the transformation of OSAP and the implementation of net tuition, and will continue to engage with Indigenous communities and stakeholders on student financial assistance reforms.

The government is also focused on better serving students and improving their interactions with OSAP. Starting in fall 2017, students will be able to apply to colleges and universities and OSAP at the same time through an integrated application process. In early 2018, when students receive their offers of admission, they will also receive a net tuition estimate — meaning they will see their out-of-pocket costs after government and institutional assistance is taken into account — to help students budget and plan for their education costs.

In addition to the OSAP changes, the government will continue to focus on initiatives designed to reduce non-financial barriers for groups with lower postsecondary participation, including low-income students, mature students and students with disabilities.

Strengthening the Postsecondary Education System

The government is continuing to focus on student success and quality outcomes in postsecondary education as the core of its transformation agenda for the sector. This will ensure that Ontario’s colleges and universities continue to provide the best learning outcomes for students who strive to seize the opportunities offered by the knowledge-driven economy.

The Province continues to work closely with its postsecondary partners to design new formulas to fund colleges and universities that will ensure continued student success, support differentiation based on institutional strengths and improve sustainability. Following university funding formula consultations in 2015, the government completed consultations on college funding modernization
in summer 2016.

To ensure sustainability and formally recognize Aboriginal institutes, the Province is developing a standalone policy for Aboriginal postsecondary education and training institutes. This approach will strengthen Indigenous learners’ access to and improve success in postsecondary education and training. As part of its collaborative approach in developing this policy, the government will engage with Aboriginal institutes, Indigenous organizations, postsecondary-education sector stakeholders and other partners.

Ontario is moving forward on its plan to increase access to French-language postsecondary education for Ontario students. In September 2016, the government appointed a Chair for a planning board, which will be exploring options for a French-language university in central and southwestern Ontario.

Employment and Skills Training

The renewed Ontario Youth Jobs Strategy, announced in the 2015 Budget, committed to helping up to 150,000 youth with employment and skills development opportunities. As part of this strategy, Ontario is providing more comprehensive and targeted employment programs and services. In April, Ontario launched:

  • Youth Job Link to help young people aged 15 to 29 plan their careers, prepare for the labour market and connect to job opportunities; and
  • The summer component of Youth Job Connection to provide summer, part-time and after-school job opportunities to high school students aged 15 to 18 who face challenging life circumstances and may need support in transitioning between school and work.

As part of the transformation of employment and training services, the government will test and evaluate emerging program models. The Province will launch SkillsAdvance Ontario in fall 2016, a sector-focused pilot to provide employers with access to job-ready, skilled workers and to offer job seekers sector-focused employment and training services.

The government is investing $3.4 million over two years in the Ontario Bridge Training program to help internationally trained new Ontarians find jobs that match their skills and experience through 11 new bridge training projects. The program helps more than 6,000 newcomers every year with training and support to become registered to work in regulated professions and other high-skilled jobs. It also works with employers to develop resources to help them hire, retain and integrate internationally trained immigrants into the workplace.

Skilled trades play a central role in the Ontario economy. The government created the College of Trades to promote the skilled trades and support high-quality apprenticeship and training programs. The government will introduce amendments to the Ontario College of Trades and Apprenticeship Act, 2009, to strengthen the College of Trades, ensure its sustainability, and increase the effectiveness of its regulatory, enforcement and administrative functions, while giving the skilled trades sector a direct role in its future.

Highly Skilled Workforce Strategy

In June 2016, the government received and accepted the final report of the Premier’s Highly Skilled Workforce Expert Panel, which made recommendations to help the province’s workforce adapt to the demands of a knowledge economy. In response, the Province and its partners are implementing an integrated Highly Skilled Workforce Strategy to bridge education, training and skills development with the demands of an evolving economy.

Ontario’s strategy is focused on making progress on several priority areas, including:

  • Improving labour market information for students, job seekers, workers and employers;
  • Expanding experiential learning opportunities across the education system;
  • Increasing students’ exposure to multiple career pathways, including options such as the arts, science, technology and engineering, entrepreneurship and apprenticeship;
  • Developing a seamless, learner-focused Adult Education System;
  • Investing in workers’ skills through employer-driven workplace training; and
  • Developing skills and competencies needed in the workplace, such as problem-solving, teamwork, entrepreneurship and industry-specific skills.

As part of this work, the Province and its partners will develop projects to help people gain the skills they need to find and keep jobs, and ensure Ontario retains the competitive advantage of having a workforce with the skills that employers want and need.

To implement the recommendations of the Premier’s Highly Skilled Workforce Expert Panel, the government will establish a new Planning and Partnership Table in fall 2016, bringing together employers, educators, labour, government experts and others to guide its strategy, initiatives and projects.

Ontario is entering the next phase of the Labour Market Information Strategy, which will support the implementation of the expert panel’s recommendations to improve the development and delivery of career and labour market information. The government plans to establish a Workforce Planning and Development Office to explore ways to collect better data faster and develop easy-to-use online resources for students, families, employers and organizations.

Labour market agreements between Ontario and Canada support an array of skills training and employment programs for Ontarians. The Province continues to work closely with the federal government to ensure that renewed agreements are better able to meet the training needs of Ontarians. For more information, see Chapter IV: Together Towards a Stronger Ontario and a Stronger Canada.